How Does Having Special Needs Affect Child Custody

Updated on December 26, 2022
Updated: January 19, 2023

To understand how custody works for a special-needs child, it might help to know how custody works in general and keep their unique situation in mind when determining a parenting plan. Custody refers to parents' legal rights and responsibilities to care for their children.

Creating a Parenting Plan For a Special Needs Child

Legal custody refers to who has decision-making power regarding the child’s upbringing. Physical custody refers to where the special-needs child lives. Legal custodianship refers to the rights of parents to make important choices for their children, including:

  1. Education
  2. Medical care
  3. Religion
  4. Discipline

These decisions may be made by court order or agreement between the parents. If there is a dispute between the parents regarding who has primary custody of their special-needs child, the court will usually decide which parent gets primary custody. This decision is called "joint legal custody."

Visitation schedules may be set through a parent’s legal documents (such as a divorce decree) or a court order. They may be changed if there are changes in the child’s life, such as their changing ages or new hobbies.

Factors to Consider When Determining a Custody Plan For a Special Needs Child

A judge will base his decision regarding custody on certain guidelines known as the “best interests of the children” standard. These guidelines include considering several factors when making a determination regarding which parent gets primary custody. A child may need someone else to care for him or her during custodial sessions. Sometimes, courts must designate a legal guardian for children who cannot take care of themselves.

A legal guardian may be appointed when either parent cannot provide proper care for their special-needs child. The main difference between regular custody cases and those concerning special needs children is that the courts use different criteria to decide who gets custody.

A court must consider the best interest of special-needs children when making decisions regarding custody. However, they must give priority to the medical care and well-being of special needs children.

a cutout of a family being separated by a pair of scissors

How is Joint Custody of a Child with Special Needs Determined?

The other important aspect of this conversation is to determine how you and your partner will share the responsibilities of caring for your special-needs child. In my opinion, if you have an older child with special education requirements, then you should probably consider having a professional involved in their life.

However, if you have a younger child, then you may be able to handle things yourself. Regardless, you should both agree on what types of decisions you will make together and what type of decisions each person will make alone.

Your views on child rearing may be very different from your ex’s. This could be one of the reasons why you and your partner broke up. So, it should not be surprising to you that you both may have some issues and difficulties when it came to dividing up parental responsibilities and how to cooperate as a group to raise your kids in a divided home. Thus, you should let your lawyer know what your concerns are and ask him/her to assist you in negotiating an order that considers your family's shortcomings.

The bottom line is that you and your partner will probably split many responsibilities for your kid. While there are some things that you and your partner hold separately, there are still many others that require you and your partner to talk about together and make decisions as a team. The key is to negotiate strongly with each other during the divorce proceedings on those issues that you think are most important for your kid.

For example, suppose you and your partner agree to divide responsibility in a certain area. Then, you should try to get an appointment with a neutral third party who can break ties if you and your partner ever come into conflict later on in the divorce agreement.

Parenting Plan Factors For Children with Disabilities

A sole physical custody schedule for children must provide for reasonable parenting times between the child and each parent, but these parenting times (major decisions) may be structured in different ways.

  • Virtual visits
  • Several uninterrupted months around one parents working, studying, or duty schedule
  • The visiting parents spend time at their children’s permanent homes while the other parents depart for another location.

It's important to communicate clearly and frequently with children who have special developmental challenges. You may need to communicate with all relevant service providers, including teachers, therapists, doctors, and social workers.

  • School (daily life)
  • Medical professionals (medical expenses, physical therapy)
  • Counselors

They might be able to clarify whether one parent should have primary or joint legal guardianship, in order to ensure that the best interest of the child is met.

How a Lawyer Can Help With a Custody Custody Case With a Special Needs Child

It is important to hire an attorney if there are any issues, questions, and/or concerns you have regarding a child support dispute. Child support cases can be very complicated and stressful for everyone involved.

If you're involved in a claim where one parent has primary physical residence rights for their children, it may be very useful to hire an attorney.

A lawyer can help you in many different ways, including:

  • Giving legal advice
  • Gather evidence
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Representing clients
  • Negotiating visitation schedules (transitions between homes)

If you need legal advice from an experienced family law lawyer, they can help you understand your parental responsibilities and, if necessary, modify a child custody order.

It doesn't matter if you're winning or losing in your custody battle, having the help of an attorney is essential. The decisions made in these cases affect the lives of everyone involved.

For more information contact Tommalieh Law Law for more information on legal custody for special needs children and family law issues from a child custody attorney. Contact a divorce attorney at (708) 232-0017 for a free consultation. Custody matters and legal counsel can help. There are many childcare options for a child during divorce.

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